It’s no secret that British consumers value convenience, and take full advantage of having the ability to order goods to their door. According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, the proportion of purchases made online has increased from 19.1% to a high of 37.6% in January this year, and is predicted to account for a significant percentage of retail sales, even once the effects of the pandemic begin to decline.
However, whilst consumer expectations are rising with regards to timely, efficient and accurate deliveries, so is their awareness of global sustainability issues. The increase in orders being shipped and delivered is adding to mounting environmental concerns. With the aftermath of COP26 and the net-zero mission still making headlines, the pressure on businesses to consider their own emissions is increasing. It is essential that retailers act now to retain customers, reduce their environmental impact and establish themselves as eco and sustainability leaders.
Lower environmental impact = lower operational costs
There are ongoing debates surrounding home delivery and the planet. Whilst consumers love the convenience of door-to-door shipping, it is clear that there are growing concerns about the environmental impact of online shopping. In recent Descartes research, 71% of respondents stated that they consider the environmental impact of their purchases before completing their order. While many e-commerce retailers are enjoying a peak season boom in sales, it is crucial they avoid turning a blind eye to their consumers’ growing eco-interests, and actively implement new strategies to help protect the environment. This is of particular importance for retailers with a younger target audience, as it was found that 86% of 18-24-year olds considered environmentally responsible shopping as an important factor when choosing where to order from. Heading into 2022, and another year closer to the zet-nero deadline, businesses must consider this a top priority.
Retailers should view the eco-friendly expectations of consumers as an opportunity to innovate and set an example for competitors lagging behind. Additionally, prioritising low carbon emissions offers a multitude of additional benefits, including improving driver productivity and efficiency. The options available for retailers looking to make their home delivery services more environmentally friendly often result in a more efficient last mile service, too.
No two consumers are the same. For some, the speed of delivery may be the driving force to order, some may be looking for the most budget-friendly option, whereas others may be looking for the lowest carbon footprint. By consolidating a customer’s orders across an entire week, retailers can limit the number of trips taken to a single address; this reduces the distance travelled and therefore the miles driven, as well as reducing the delivery resources and routes required. By implementing this strategy, retailers can expect to dramatically reduce their environmental impact and see definite changes to their operational costs.
Convenient eco deliveries
Businesses should be prioritising a transformation in their delivery process now to give transparency and evidence of their sustainability credentials, in order to provide the awareness that consumers are seeking. Aside from bulking customer orders, there are further options to consider. “Eco delivery” time windows that involve scheduling new deliveries to coincide with nearby existing delivery appointments will ensure that less distance is travelled per delivery, meaning less fuel is required to deliver the load. In essence, less fuel means less emissions, and offers a more environmentally responsible approach to logistics. Offering eco-friendly time slots typically reduces the distance required by ~20%, and with the ongoing HGV driver shortages and delays across the supply chain, this should be a no-brainer for retailers looking to stay competitive.
With a range of innovative solutions available, retailers have the opportunity to transform their operations and lead in their field by dynamically presenting delivery options to the consumer and taking the opportunity to educate and raise awareness of their environmental credentials.
Consumers want to hear from retailers about topics that matter to them – from progress reports to logistics improvement programmes, they want to feel confident that their chosen online shopping destinations are aiming to improve their environmental performance. Retailers must be transparent with their customers when it comes to vehicles, fuel, distance and their contributions to a better environment.
By offering the customer eco-friendly options and improving the overall efficiency of logistics operations, the consumer is reassured and the retailer can reap the benefits of satisfied customers and more efficient, productive deliveries.
There is no denying that the retail market is facing yet another challenging chapter, and retailers are undoubtedly struggling to balance the increased demand for products with the ability to deliver an experience that meets consumers’ continuously evolving expectations. Despite these ongoing challenges, it is essential that companies acknowledge and act on the increasing awareness surrounding environmental responsibility. It is clear that there is a shift in trends and the time to prioritise sustainable operations is now. Rather than treating environmental concerns as another consumer demand, retailers should use them to help attract more customers and improve their bottom lines. By implementing simple and automated solutions that optimise delivery operations, emissions and environmental impact can be reduced seamlessly, whilst also streamlining logistics operations and maximising the overall capacity of the fleet.